That way to the Canadian/U.S. border...
When did you start thinking about doing the Tour Divide?
2016 was the first time I had actually paid attention to the Tour Divide, beyond knowing it existed. A handful of friends were riding and I watched. 2017 was a fine year, I was all set up with plans, “Yeah, gonna go back to school, be done with bike industry, gonna do a tour divide, come back and go to school, what a good plan.” Once 2018 hit I'd spent all my school money making Tour Divide prep happen. Maybe that money was never school money?
Was there a moment you can recall when you went from ‘thinking about it’ to saying ‘I’m going to ride the Tour Divide’?
The moment was found after I crushed myself finishing a 200-mile event. The Spotted Horse is painful and forced me to dig deeper than I have in years to get what I wanted. The next logical step in my head was Tour Divide. Mind made up, nothing stopping me, picture me shrugging my shoulders right now.
There’s something to be said about just deciding to do something. Did deciding to ride the route bring relief, or anticipation, or pressure?
He says, “Just deciding to do something.” I love that. Miker was one of the very small handfuls of people who I talked to about actually doing the Divide. He never questioned me, just listened. I knew I was going to go do the Tour Divide. And it really was just making a decision, then doing all the work to make that decision happen. The decision also rested on a goal of 28 days. My ego let me understand that goal as a reality. (I knew I would finish in 28 days.) Which sounds cocky and horribly misleading, but that confidence fueled decisions that eventually propelled me to the finish line. I spent all my time, money, and mental capacity teaching myself that I would finish the Tour Divide in 2018 on my SS Woodsmoke.
You ride your bike a lot, but did you do any special preparation for the Tour Divide?
I bought the Tour Divide book and didn’t read it. I hardly studied the route, reading mostly about how to not get eaten by bears, but again, hardly. I couldn’t stand to read ride reports or look at pictures. I asked two people all of my questions; thank you, Bailey and Leah. My car ride plans fell through, the bike community got word, and a fellow rider, Ed, took me to Banff; thank you, Ed. So far preparation was like everything else, last minute hustlin’. The bike riding was the same too, just Monday Night Gravels and the occasional 100-mile ride. The 28-day goal was looked on as a touring pace for me, not a race. This was a natural progression of my riding. I like to think of doing this Tour as preparation to take me to the next level as a rider.
When you think back to the Grand Depart in Banff, what memories stand out?
Shoving a bunch of dates into a zip-lock.
Laughing while racing through town to find the start.
Riding with Isaac to the start.
Ben Weaver handing me a Pie Town top cap.
Leaving in the tail end of the group a couple seconds later.
As the journey progressed, I’m assuming there was some physical breakdown, and then physical rebuilding, but what went on mentally for you throughout the ride?
Right, the physical stuff was easy. I got physically stronger as the miles ticked away. Throughout the beginning of the ride, mostly Canada, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming I could rest on my experience riding ultra-endurance gravel events. One day I would do a wet Land Run up and over a pass to the border crossing, next a soggy Royal Almanzo through the slop of Montana, finishing the week off with Gravel Worlds in the Basin. By the time I got to Colorado that toughness was worn out. The pace of the ride also evened out. I began riding with one person instead of five, and truly entered a touring place; spending more time eating and washing in rivers. The weather became fairer, and so did my mood. Things shifted again, maybe it was the singletrack or 12,500 feet of elevation, but I was in a new place, New Mexico. This state would prove to be the most difficult physically and mentally. The physical reality of pavement, heat, and a tricky terrain gave my mental stability a run for its money. Sand made me upset, the sun was trying to melt me, and my clothes were falling apart; I was falling apart. New Mexico was my favorite state. This is where I learned to listen and appreciate me. Just pedaling until I achieve my goal. Physically, I could have stopped. Mentally, there was no stopping me. Just like my initial decision to do the Divide, my mind was made up; GET TO THE FINISH.
What are some of the most memorable moments for you from your first trip down the Divide route?
Turning towards the entrance of the trail leading to the border and not seeing it.
Pedaling up and over the pass to the border in the snow, hands encased in rubber kitchen gloves. I melted my original gloves in a fire, because everything was wet, and fire melts things.
Not knowing where I had come from 40 miles ago, the lack of memory.
Climbing up mountain passes listening to Post Malone.
The mud of Montana, SS Woodsmoke rode all that mud.
Watching a lamb being born; it was kind of gross.
Forcing Gary Johnson to stay in a cabin with me, Jason, and Sam.
The fanciest dinner I’ve ever paid for at that fancy LAKE PLACE. Also known as Holland Lake.
Brush Mountain Lodge, now I know what a mirage is.
Sleeping in a wet teepee in Idaho? Crying because there was no dryer.
Crawling out of my bivvy in Idaho, puking, crawling back in bivvy.
Falling in the softest grass at a rest stop because I couldn’t unclip, laughing, both feet still clipped in.
The Divide Riders Hostel in Colorado.
Launching parts of sandwiches and bananas from my Bar Yakk snack handlebar situation. (Voile straps are strong, sandwiches and bananas are not.)
Talking with firefighters in New Mexico, who then told us to leave the national forest, we did. Then, we got a ride back to the route in a truck.
The Toaster House in Pie Town saving me from myself. The neighbors brought us fajitas and Gary Johnson called me a “bad-ass motherfucker.”
Walking the Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico, you’re supposed to hike that part right?
The last 3 miles sucking.
Was this one of those experiences that while doing it has you thinking ‘never again’? Or did you find yourself thinking more about the ‘next time’?
For the first 2,000 miles it was never again. Then, it turned into I want to do this again. Like you said it's "just making a decision." ;) Faster, and on a SS. It's nearly impossible to find any details about a SS women's record. Whatever it is, I want to set a new one.
To the great many people out there that have dreamt of riding the Tour Divide, what are your words of encouragement to them?
Whatever you read and learn about the Divide is important, but it won’t help you finish. Keep riding your bike, get comfortable being uncomfortable.
That’s how encouragement works, right? Ha.
Share this post: Tweet
I live, work, and play in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa may not have epic mountains or vast skylines, but it boasts hundreds of miles of gravel. That is where I found my true calling. In 2012 I attempted my first Trans-Iowa, got lost, and was instantly hooked. I have been there every year since. I am constantly looking for that next adventure to keep me teetering on the line between insanity and clarity. Bring it on! andreafromiowa.wordpress.com.